Guide for interpreting reports from inspections/investigations of indoor mold
Inspections and testing of indoor environments for mold growth increased dramatically in the past decade. Allergists can now be presented copies of reports and laboratory data and asked to provide an interpretation, although allergists are seldom trained to review environmental data
There is no single sampling method that is both specific for mold growth and robust enough to reliably detect mold growth. There is no standard method for these inspections or testing and no widely recognized credential for investigators, and therefore reports also vary in quality, objectives, and thoroughness.
Despite these issues, observations from informed inspections coupled with results from qualified analyses of samples that are collected with a useful strategy can usually indicate whether mold growth is present in a building, but the nature of the report should be assessed before any interpretation of the results and data are attempted.
This rostrum discusses objectives of inspections, describes qualifications for investigators, outlines the limitations of various sampling methods applicable to mold and to some degree endotoxin, and provides guidance for data interpretation.
Mold growth occurs in damp buildings, and ample evidence indicates that respiratory complaints are increased among occupants of damp buildings. Regardless of mechanism, the long-established “damp building effect” on respiratory symptoms remains unexplained. Recent studies actually extend the damp building effect beyond triggering symptoms to actually inciting new cases of asthma. If corroborated, this effect will further increase the demand for building inspections and in turn increase the need for allergists to interpret and understand reports of such inspections.
Testing For Mold
prepared this information to explain why it usually does not support mold testing as the first response to indoor air quality concerns and to help people better understand what mold testing can and cannot be expected to do. Mold testing is often not an appropriate or effective way to answer many of the questions that lead people to ask for it.
people seeking mold testing really need a thorough investigation into moisture problems and the damage it can cause – often times this is something they can do on their own.
Limitations of Mold Testing
There are many testing methods that can detect molds. They can be used to find mold particles suspended in air, in settled dust, or growing on surfaces of building materials and furnishings. Some methods can identify a portion of the types of live (viable) molds in a sampled environment, but these may also miss or undercount those are not live or won’t grow well on the nutrients used to incubate the sample
Other methods are better able to characterize the total amount of molds in a sample (including the non-living portion), but not very good for identifying the specific types of molds. Even tests that are done well only give a partial estimate of the amount and types of molds actually collected in a sample or in the sampled environment.
It is vital to appreciate that a test result only gives a “snap-shot” estimate for a single point in time and a single location – how well it represents other locations and times is uncertain since the amounts and types of mold in the environment is always changing. This variability can be especially large for airborne molds, with significant changes occurring over the course of hours or less. Caution must also be used in interpreting surface testing results, since mold growth or deposition may not be uniform over an area and may increase or decrease as time passes
Concern about the health effects of exposure to indoor mold has been growing over the past few years. In this fact sheet, we provide answers to the most commonquestions received about indoor mold and health.
Who can test for mold?
Citizens can find individuals or companies that perform mold testing by looking under “Environmental Services” in the Yellow Pages of their telephone book. recommends looking for individuals or companies that employ certified industrial hygienists or persons who work under the supervision of industrial hygienists.
Should I have my home or business tested for mold?
does not recommend testing for mold (see the fact sheet “Indoor Environmental Quality: Testing Should Not Be the First Step”). If mold growth is visible, testing is not needed to identify what type or level of mold is present. Mold testing also is not typically useful in determining what steps to take for cleanup.
What is Stachybotrys?
Stachybotrys is a greenish-black, slimy mold found only on cellulose products (such as wood or paper) that have remained wet for several days or more. Stachybotrys does not grow on concrete, linoleum or tile. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, all molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal. Exposure to any mold could cause health effects under the right conditions
What are the health effects of mold exposure?
Many molds can cause adverse health effects. Molds produce allergens, irritants and, sometimes, toxins that may cause adverse reactions in humans. A reaction to mold depends on how much a person is exposed to, the general health and age of a person and the person’s sensitivities or allergies. The same amount of mold may cause health effects in one person, but not in another.
All About Mold
Mold plays a very important role in our lives. Without mold, we wouldn’t have certain life-saving drugs like penicillin. We also wouldn’t have cheese. Sometimes, though, mold grows in places it shouldn’t – including inside our homes or workplaces.
This kind of mold needs to be cleaned up so that it doesn’t cause health problems, such as headaches, runny eyes and noses, and coughing; or trigger attacks in kids and adults with asthma.
if you need more help.
All About Mold – information on finding mold, cleaning and testing* for mold, and ‘toxic black mold’
Mold & Your Health – information on common health problems caused by mold
Steps for Cleaning Mold – step-by-step clean up instructions for mold in your home
Mold & Home Owners – addresses some common problems a home owner may face with mold and consumer protection issues
Mold & Renter Disputes – provides step-by-step instructions a renter may follow to address problems with mold in a rental home or apartment.
All About Mold
Molds are a type of fungus that may grow on indoor surfaces, and may look cottony, wooly, smooth, or velvety. The velvety looking surface is actually thousands of microscopic spores. These spores can travel through the air, land somewhere else, and grow new colonies if food, water, and warmth are present.
Molds are everywhere. Most indoor molds come from the outdoors, and are carried inside on our shoes, clothes, through open windows, doors, and mechanical ventilation systems. Every home, office, and school in the country has some mold inside that was carried in from the outdoor environment. When there is a moisture problem in a building such as one caused by a flood, water leak, or very high humidity, the small amount of mold naturally found there may start growing.
In some cases, certain sensitive people may begin developing symptoms when exposed to large amounts of mold. These symptoms may include allergic reactions, asthma episodes, and other respiratory problems. It is important to remember that not all people are susceptible to mold.
Most mold problems in buildings are not emergencies. They can be dealt with using fairly easy techniques. Some resources to help you deal with clean-up are listed below.
Here are some main points to keep in mind when evaluating a mold problem:
Without water, mold cannot survive.
All mold growths are potential health hazards and should be removed.
Sampling/testing for mold is expensive and usually not necessary. If you see it, remove it.
The best way to address the mold problem is to:
Find and fix the moisture problem.
Clean up the mold using safe procedures.